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Shows With Contributions by Ellen Blackstone

A Year's Worth of Birds

Phoebe Snetsinger saw more than 8,400 species of birds in her lifetime! And she doesn't even hold the record. You don't have to keep a list to enjoy birds, but the variety you see in your own yard might surprise you. Start a list now, and keep track of a year's worth of birds. If you're lucky,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Julenek - Birds at Christmas

Birds are an important part of Christmas in Norway. On Christmas Eve, sheaves of wheat or oats are tied to a post or hung on the door, to feed the birds on Christmas morning. This bundle of grain, the julenek, has become a symbol of Christmas in Norway, and a julenek hangs on nearly every door,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdfeeding

The Lowly Starling

Much maligned as a pest and cursed by many as an "invasive species," the European Starling has had many fans, too. Eugene Schieffelin introduced about 50 pairs into the United States in the 1890s. And Rachel Carson noted that the starling carries "more than 100 loads of destructive insects per... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  music, vocalization

Mistaken Identity

This Band-tailed Pigeon may sound like an owl, but it's a case of mistaken identity. The song of the American Robin could be confused with that of the Black-headed Grosbeak. And then, there's the Black-capped Chickadee. At certain times of year, the male sings "Fee-bee, fee-bee," even though it's... read more »

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Stand-still Birding

While full-speed-ahead birding can mean spotting a large number of species, there's quiet joy in stand-still birding. Pick a place-forest, field, or marsh. Find a seat that's dry, and hold your binoculars to your eyes. Be still and blend in. After perhaps twenty minutes, birds accept you as part... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Watching Birds' Behavior

To distinguish one bird from a similar one, watch how the bird moves. Does it flick its wings? Bob up and down? Flip its tail? The White-breasted Nuthatch (right) works its way down the trunk of a tree, while the Brown Creeper works its way up. A field guide usually mentions these behaviors, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching

Walking on Eggshells

Walking on eggshells usually means dealing with something delicate, fragile. But eggs are far from fragile. An egg has to be strong enough to withstand the weight of an adult bird during incubation. But the tiny, weak baby bird within has to be able to peck its way out. Is it true that if you... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  language

The Nightingale

From Hans Christian Andersen... Long ago, in an emperor's garden, lived a Nightingale. The emperor ordered the bird to be brought to him, and she was locked in a golden cage. When the emperor received a mechanical Nightingale, the real Nightingale was banished. Years later, the emperor lay dying.... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16-19, 2018, is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Birdwatchers across the country count birds and then report the numbers on-line. Although it may seem that crows are everywhere, the Northern Cardinal is reported on the most lists nearly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching, citizen science, science

Jacana - Lily-trotter

The strange wading birds known as jacanas are nick-named "lily-trotters" for their ability to walk on lilypads. In Jamaica, they're known as "Jesus birds," because they appear to be walking on water — a feat made possible by their long toes. But that's not all that's cool about jacanas.... read more »

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